BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

Disney's enduring classic The Little Mermaid is heading to the stage in Charleston, WV! The Charleston Light Opera Guild is excited to bring this fairy tale masterpiece to life at the Clay Center Theater. The hit musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2007, is based on the 1989 animated classic film and features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, and a book by Doug Wright. Children of all ages will be delighted as they watch the story of Ariel, Flounder, Ursula, Sebastian, and Prince Eric unfold by the talented professionals in the Charleston Light Opera Guild.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, The Little Mermaid follows Ariel, the teenage daughter of the powerful King Triton, who longs to experience the world above her. Unhappy, she absentmindedly spends her days collecting discarded items from the world above, losing countless hours attempting to discover their use on land. After witnessing a horrific accident at sea, Ariel rushes to save Prince Eric, whom she falls in love with, but leaves on the beach before he can recover and figure out that she is a mermaid. This chance encounter causes Ariel's longing to leave her water prison to escalate. Sensing this urgency in Ariel, Ursula - a sea witch desperate to obtain King Triton's power - offers Ariel a chance to experience the life she so often dreams of. The sea witch promises to turn Ariel into a human for three days, during which she must convince Prince Eric to kiss her, otherwise her soul will permanently become the property of Ursula. But there's a catch! Ursula does not work for free, and in order to become human Ariel must give up her voice as payment for the transformation. What follows is a master class of song and story which will keep audiences thrilled as they watch Ariel and her friends fight to win the love of Prince Eric and topple the sea witch Ursula.

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

So how does it feel to bring a classic musical to the stage? I spoke with Director/Choreographer Nina Pasinetti and Musical Director David Patrick to find out.

Director/Choreographer - Nina Pasinetti

Choosing The Little Mermaid was easy for Director and Choreographer Nina Pasinetti, who has already played a hand in bringing multiple Disney classics to The Clay Center's stage. "The Charleston Light Opera Guild in collaboration with The Clay Center has produced several Disney productions," Pasinetti explained. "Disney's Beauty and the Beast was presented in both 2005 and 2016, High School Musical was presented in the summer of 2007 and has been the most attended Charleston Light Opera Guild production to date, with an average of 1,400 (attendees) for six performances, and Mary Poppins was presented in 2015." These Disney classics "were some of the Guild's top sellers with their appeal to family audiences." So, of course "When The Little Mermaid became available to community theatre companies, our board became immediately interested. Numbers of people have expressed that The Little Mermaid is their favorite of the Disney animated films."BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

This love for the original film, released in 1989, helped cement the board's choice for their second summer show, which is typically based around young adults. "It seemed a natural fit for the Guild's second summer show slot," explained Pasinetti. "The second summer show is selected to appeal to casting high school, college age, and young adults - plus the Clay Center was on board for a collaborative production." Typically, the Guild works with The Clay Center when bringing Disney classics to life as the theater's stage space and technical abilities are needed to perform the production as intended.

Pasinetti was lucky enough to catch the Broadway production back in 2008 but was originally unimpressed - though she admits that was ultimately not the fault of the production itself. "I had traveled to NYC with friends by car and arrived in the city about five minutes before curtain, so I was extremely tired. I believe my exhaustion shaded my initial reaction to the production." Realizing she might not have been fair, she gave the show a 2nd chance when the touring production rolled through Columbus, OH. "I loved it," Pasinetti said.

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center TheaterThe Little Mermaid is as much about its spectacular visuals, as it is the story. Ensuring that the costumes were up to snuff was a job Pasinetti took very seriously. "The costumes we are using are rentals from Spotlight Costumes LLC in Pittsburgh," explained Pasinetti. "I previewed several companies that offered rental packages of The Little Mermaid and looked for designs that would allow freedom of movement for dancers and singers while keeping the integrity of the characters." After viewing many options, Pasinetti settled on what she thought would best suit her production. "The costumes that were selected have elaborate headpieces for the many aquatic and bay animals while utilizing more simplistic body suits." Simplistic doesn't mean that they aren't still a fun sight to behold. "Many of the body suits are luminous sea colors, while others are bright and sequined or in materials that emulate scales. Overlays in blue tones, yellows, greens, and reds are used. Ariel and the mermaids wear two-piece costumes complete with shells and color coordinated hair. Ursula's costume has shades of florescent fuchsia, purple and black glowing tentacles, and larger-than-life hair. Her two lackeys, Flotsam and Jetsam, are effective with scaled pants, tops that light, and green and black wigs. Flounder is playful looking in yellow, and Sebastian's red tones and formal brocade jacket let you know that he's a crab in charge."

This loving care and attention does not apply only to the costumes, but also to the sets. "The set, lighting, visuals, staging, makeup, and costumes should help an audience to suspend belief and enter a world under the sea," said Pasinetti.

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

Pasinetti urges that even if you've memorized the film, there are still surprises to be had. "The live adaptation introduces several changes from the film," said Pasinetti. "There is no shark chase with Ariel and Flounder, nor does Prince Eric have a sheepdog named Max. Ursula does not expand out of proportion near her demise, nor does she accidently kill Flotsam and Jetsam." While there are many other changes, I won't list them here and risk ruining the magic of the story and the surprises in store. Pasinetti assures audiences that the stand out numbers, including Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl are still there, but joined by a variety of new songs. "New songs include The World Above, She's In Love, Her Voice, Sweet Child, Beyond My Wildest Dreams, One Step Closer, and If Only." Two new songs, The Contest and Positoovity, play integral parts in the show. "The Contest introduces six princesses who each vie for Prince Eric's hand in marriage and Ariel's seagull friend, Scuttle, leads a standout number, Positoovity, with other seagulls that join him in song and dance, complete with tapping feet."

Even those who have seen the Broadway show will be in for a surprise. "The live version that is currently licensed is different from the original Broadway production," said Pasinetti. "Changes were made to the book and score following a 2012 Dutch production. Included in those changes are the deletion of Ursula's song, I Want the Good Times Back, and the addition of the replacement song, Daddy's Little Angel, that allowed for a new back story for King Triton and Ursula as brother and sister." These changes are for the better, explains Pasinetti. "Since I enjoyed the 2017 tour more than the 2008 Broadway production, I believe the revised version flows better for audiences."BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

Stepping away from talking about the show, I asked Pasinetti about the wide variety of shows that the Charleston Light Opera Guild presents in a given season and if she believed that variety was necessary for the theatrical community. "Charleston Light Opera Guild 2018 offerings included the intimate 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the beloved classic My Fair Lady, a musical based on a cult film The Full Monty, family favorite The Little Mermaid, and a new classic Ragtime. Each of these five productions appeals to a different demographic and hopefully will create new audiences while maintaining devoted attendees," said Pasinetti. "I do think variety is important in any season." Pasinetti acknowledges that while the Charleston Light Opera Guild was not always as varied, they have worked hard in the past two decades to bring a variety of genres to the stage rather than solely producing the family friendly musicals they were once known for.

"The Charleston Light Opera Guild strives to entertain, excite, and inspire audiences with high caliber community based musical theatre offered at an affordable price," said Pasinetti, in an apt summary of the theatrical group's main goal.

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center TheaterReturning to our talk of The Little Mermaid, Pasinetti broke down some of the technical elements involved in bringing this show to the stage. "Disney productions come with unique challenges. For The Little Mermaid, four of the characters create swim effects by flight. The flying illusions are created by ZFX, Inc. The original Broadway show depicted the sea characters and mermaids wearing Heelys - wheeled footwear - to depict swimming. The Guild and Clay Center production does not make use of such shoes"

Pasinetti ended our talk with a glimpse at what audiences should expect. "Audiences should expect a production filled with hummable tunes, inspired actors, dancers, and singers,with a professional set designed by Anthony Ferrieri courtesy of Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, accompaniment by a live orchestra, and much spectacle in the ensemble scenes."

Musical Director - David Patrick

"The original film version came out just two years after I was born, so I grew up watching it," said David Patrick, describing what drew him to this production. "I have been a fan of all things Disney since I was born. Kind of gives me a sentimental attachment to the show." As a Music Director, Patrick jumped at the chance to perform such iconic classics as "Kiss the Girl" and "Part of That World." "The music is so endlessly catch that it has been pretty easy teaching it; the cast has been quick to learn it as well." Despite the film's popularity, Patrick wants audiences to know that the musical and film's songs may differ slightly. "The audience will have a certain expectation for what the songs should sound like - we want to honor that, but I also wanted to give the cast the freedom to put their own spin on the music. There are also about ten original songs that don't appear in the film, but many of them are based on musical themes that the audience will recognize from the movie."

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

I asked Patrick if he had a chance to catch The Little Mermaid on Broadway. "I didn't get a chance to see the Broadway production," Patrick said, "but I did see a regional production in Pittsburgh last summer which is closer to the version we will be performing." Patrick is correct, as The Little Mermaid had a short run on Broadway, not becoming the hit that Disney had hoped for. After the show's somewhat disappointing run, the show was meticulously redesigned in hopes of the touring production being more successful. "After the show closed on Broadway, several sections were reworked and songs were cut or switched out with others to make The Little Mermaid work better as a stage production." These changes helped, as the regional performances have proven to be a hit all over the US.BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater

You would think that performing such an iconic score would come easily to the cast and crew, but there are struggles that come with performing a score that all involved are so familiar with. "Learning a Broadway score is a lot different than singing along with a film soundtrack," said Patrick. "There are intricate harmonies and many of the ensemble numbers have multiple layers of parts that have to work together. The song Kiss the Girl is one example of this." Patrick also hopes to infuse this production with its own character, to make it stand out from other productions. "There is also the challenge of making our production somewhat original - I've tried to give principals in the cast the freedom to make the songs their own - I think audiences will see and hear some of what they know from the film but will also be treated to original takes on these characters."

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater
Sherri Hudnall, Jessica Light, Faith King, Blaine Miller,
Kim Patterson, Frannie Slotnick, Tiara Stokes, Mallory Szerokman,
Madasyn Warnock, Megan Wright

Despite the addition of new songs and somewhat rearranged melodies, the core of the story remains intact. "Most of the musical is pretty faithful to the film version of The Little Mermaid," explained Patrick. "The plot line is changed slightly towards the end, though." Patrick uses Prince Eric as an example of how the new additions help provide a background, allowing audience members to better connect with the characters. "In the film version, we don't really know much about Prince Eric. But in the musical, we learn about what he wants in life and the emotions he is feeling through songs, such as Her Voice." This added characterization branches out to the villain, Ursula, as well. "With the song Daddy's Little Angel and some additional scenes, we learn that Ursula and King Triton are actually siblings and the Ursula has previously disposed of her older sisters in various ways. The addition of the original songs to the story allows several characters to be expanded and further developed."

"The Little Mermaid will truly be a 'spectacle' show," promises Patrick. "Now, that's not to take away from the awesome performances from our cast and orchestra or the wonderful music they will produce. However, this show will have it all - beautiful and intricate costumes, a huge set, lighting and projections effects, and even some flight work by some of the characters. All that in a state of the art facility like the Clay Center with a sixteen-piece orchestra." The Charleston Light Opera Guild understands that money can be tight and aims to give audiences a show well worth the ticket price that can be enjoyed by all ages. "This is a show that anyone in the family will enjoy. Kids and teenagers will love the colorful animated quality of the production and the fun music, millennials and young adults grew up with the movie, and older adults can appreciate the wonderful music, storyline, and production quality."

BWW Feature: The Charleston Light Opera Guild Presents THE LITTLE MERMAID at The Clay Center Theater
Dewey Fletcher, Trey Harris, Mark Worlledge, Emma Alley, Susannah Atkins, Megan Bsharah, Adrienne Clark, Sarah Hudnall, Stephanie Hudnall

Patrick concludes our interview by praising the cast and crew. "I'm enormously proud of the work that our all-volunteer cast and orchestra have put into this show. As a summer theatre production for the Guild, most of the cast is made up of younger performers. All of them have worked extremely hard to put together a professional product that will delight their audience. Our orchestra has also put their talents together to create a tight sound that will complement the production on stage extremely well. The Disney magic is definitely alive with The Little Mermaid."

Show Information

Show Dates: August 3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th, 2018 at 7:30 PM and August 5th and 12th, 2018 at 2:00 PM.
Tickets: $28.50 and $33.50. Tickets can be purchased online via The Clay Center by clicking here.
Location: The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, 1 Clay Square, Charleston, WV 25301
More Information: You can visit The Little Mermaid's Info Page on CLOG's website or the Event Page on Facebook.

Cast

Ariel - Sara Golden
Prince Eric - Maxwell Ross
Ursula - Kristen Pennington
Sebastian - Cedrick L. Farmer
King Triton - Jamison Miller
Scuttle - Jacob Fleck
Flounder - Gavyn Siebanoller
Grimsby - Clint Thomas
Chef Louis - Eric B. Hudnall
Flotsam and Jetsam - Ted Brightwell and Clayton Thomas
Mersisters - Lauren Meyer, Andrea Mashayekhi, Shiloh Perry, Taylor Shaw, Hannah O'Brien, and Mallory Thomas
Ensemble - Emma Alley, Susannah Atkins, Megan Bsharah, Adrienne Clark, Dewey Fletcher, Trey Harris, Sarah Hudnall, Sherri Hudnall, Stephanie Hudnall, Jessica Light, Faith King, Sarah King, Blaine Miller, Kim Patterson, Frannie Slotnick, Tiara Stokes, Mallory Szerokman, Madasyn Warnock, Mark Worlledge, and Megan Wright.

Crew

Director/Choreographer - Nina Denton Pasinetti
Musical Director - David Patrick
Orchestra Accompanist - John Patrick
Production Manager and Lighting Designer - Thomas P. Pasinetti
Sound Designer - Mike Ramsey

Special Thanks

"Without the support of our generous sponsors we would not be able to produce a production of this quality and magnitude," said Pasinetti. "The Little Mermaid is sponsored by the Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Foundation, Ed & Susan Maier, and Charleston Area Medical Center. The collaboration with the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences West Virginia also enables the Charleston Light Opera Guild to present such a spectacle."

About the Author

Richard Allen is a freelance writer for various publications. He can be reached via email at richardallenwrites@gmail.com or on Facebook.com/richardallenwrites

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